Category Archives: 1900s to 1920s

Hair Styles for American Girls, World War I Era (Part 1)

Three hairstyles from Delineator, February 1917. One is very high, one has bangs and side-puffs, and one may be — but probably isn’t — a bob.

My usual approach to this blog is to collect a lot of images with something in common, and then thread them together — often with plenty of meandering into by-paths….

The top of a full page of hairstyles for women, Delineator, April 1917.

I  ended up with so many images of 1917 hair styles for European-American women that I’m having trouble dividing them into several posts.

One stream has to do with the remarkable height of some 1917 hairstyles. [And hats.]

A model for Paquin (1917) sports a hair style as extreme as any seen on a runway today.

Another has to do with bobbed hair — pre-1920’s — popularized by dancer Irene Castle and necessitated in Europe by women’s war work in munitions factories. (The U.S. was a late-comer to WW I, so American women didn’t need to adopt shorter hairstyles for safety until 1917.)

Mrs. Vernon Castle  (Irene Castle) was credited with setting the fashion for bobbed hair. From an ad campaign for Corticelli Silks, Delineator, October 1917.

Another view of Irene Castle’s famous bobbed hair; Delineator, ad for Corticelli Silks, November 1917. Both photos are probably from the same photo shoot; she is wearing the same dress.

A third idea I’m wrestling with is the gradual steps toward the bob — from a “fringe” (bangs) in the 1880’s to cutting some of the front hair short (1917) while retaining long hair in back. I suspect that most women took this conservative approach, making the change in increments.

From the Sears, Roebuck catalog, Fall 1917. From the front, the woman on the right appears to have bobbed hair, but her reflection in the mirror shows that her back hair is long and gathered into a bun, secured with a large, fan-shaped comb.

And then I have some ads for products related to hair styles….

The image used with this ad resembles the Paquin model above. It offers to transform your own hair combings into “switches” which could be used to increase the size of your hairdo. Anna Ayers ad from Delineator, March 1917.

A Digression About Hair Combings and Rats

One item often included in an early 20th century Vanity set — or dresser set — was a hair receiver.

A vanity set from Sears, Roebuck, 1917. The hair receiver is at upper right.

It was a jar with a hole in the lid, into which women put their “combings.”

Along with nail files, button hooks, brushes, and containers for cotton balls (No. 8K8744,) containers for hair combings (Nos. 8K8745 and 8K8723) appeared on a lady’s dressing table. Sears, 1917.

That is, when women cleaned hair out of their brushes and combs, they put it into the hair receiver, and, when they had collected enough, they made it into a “rat,” encasing it in a hairnet that matched their hair color and then combing their long hair over the rat to create huge turn-of-the-century hairstyles like those illustrated by Charles Dana Gibson.  The huge hairdos of the 1940’s used them too.

Those Tall 1917 Hair Styles

From an ad for Fashionette hairnets, Delineator, April 1917.

A similar conical style, called the “beehive,” was popular in the 1960s:

“The higher the hair, the closer to Heaven” was a popular saying when “bouffant” hairdos were in fashion. We supported these styles by “ratting” our hair (see “rats,” above). Hairdressers called it “back-combing,” but we always called it “ratting.” You took a strand of hair, pulled it up toward the sky, and, with your other hand, repeatedly ran a comb down it toward your scalp. Any loose hairs were pushed into tangles at the base. Spray with “Aquanette.” Repeat. When your ratted hair was a complete, tangled mess, you carefully brushed the outer layer smooth  and sealed it with a final layer of hairspray. I remember a classmate who had a conical “beehive” hairdo done before a prom. By carefully wrapping it in a scarf at night, she preserved it for several days. It gradually deflated, though, so by Friday, her light brown beehive looked like she had a cow patty on her head….

High Hair, 1917

High hair for evening, accented with a jeweled comb, from an article in Delineator, April 1917. The waves are probably a Marcel.

Back in 1917, you could also use Silmarine to set your hair — it probably increased volume, too.

Ad for Silmarine hair setting lotion, Delineator, March 1917.

The Sew Historically website has an extensive set of recipes for shampoos and for Bandoline, the 19th century predecessor to hair spray.  In 1917, you could wear an invisible hairnet:

Another big hair style from a Fashionette hairnet ad. Delineator, August 1917.

The blonde woman with a similar gravity-defying hairstyle is wearing a house dress, not an evening gown. Delineator, January 1917.

Two high hairdos flank a less extreme style in April 1917. Delineator magazine.

A high, conical hairdo from an article in Delineator, April 1917. “The high hair-dressing is new, and adds a generous cubit to your stature.” This was not just a style for evening, as seen from other illustrations.

Did any ordinary women get their hair to look like this? Yes.

This pretty girl with a lap full of kittens posed in the homely back yard of my grandmother’s house. Circa 1917.

Not all hairdos were tall enough to “add a cubit to your height.”

This woman’s long, Marcel-waved hair [her “crowning glory”] is worn close to her head, and caught in a large chignon at the nape of her neck. This style persisted into the 1920’s and early 1930’s. Delineator, April 1917.

The next photo contains a mysterious reference to eating “bread crusts to make your hair curl.”

Her low hair style has a cluster of curls in back. April, 1917. Delineator.

Are they real, or did she buy them?

A “switch” in the form of a “string of curls” was offered in this ad from Delineator, February 1917. Ad for Frances Roberts Co. –“The Mail-Order Hair House.”

Gradually Working Your Way Toward Bobbed Hair

Two women from a Sears’ catalog, Fall 1917. Although at first glance their hair appears as short as Irene Castle’s, a closer look shows a small bun at the back.

In the 1920’s the bun was eliminated:

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/1924-oct-p-25-patterns-top.jpg?w=500&h=404

Short, “shingle” haircuts from October, 1925; Delineator. The front of the hairdo is much like that of 1917.

Short Hair on Women Marked a Social Change

Long hair used to be the only option for most women. Delineator, March 1917.

A woman’s long hair was said to be “her crowning glory.”  In Victorian times, cropped hair was often a sign that a woman had suffered a severe illness (as in Conan Doyle’s story, “The Copper Beeches.“)

Dresses for girls 8 to 15, Delineator, May 1924. The one on the left has long “Mary Pickford” curls, associated with innocence.

Men saw long hair paradoxically, as both sexy and innocent: young girls wore their hair loose and long, and young ladies “put up their hair” around sixteen, as a sign that they were now adults — and ready for marriage.

Cutting it all short at one time — like Irene Castle — took a lot of courage, especially in 1917. My mother and her best friend shocked their families when they bobbed their hair around 1922. They were the first girls in town to do it.  Back in 1918, my mother was working up to it gradually — and that is a story for another day. (Part 2)

My mother’s eighth grade graduation picture, circa 1918-19.

She has done her best to simulate the high hair and cheek puffs of fashion illustrations — without cutting her hair.

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1960s-1970s, Hairstyles, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, vintage photographs, World War I

Quick Post: Theda Bara’s Bloomers

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Public domain image of Theda Bara as Cleopatra, 1917. From WikiMedia Commons. She was at ease in very revealing costumes.

Bonus sighting of Cleopatra’s knickers: The 1917 film of Theda Bara’s Cleopatra is lost, but an attempt to reconstruct it from surviving footage and still photos is being made. The lavish and daring costumes make up in craftsmanship what they lack in authenticity. I especially love this sequence, in which Cleopatra rises from her throne to reveal, under her see-through dress, a pair of very un-sexy 1917 knickers. Click here.       (The inter-titles assume you’re a very slow reader; be patient and wait for it….) The elastic seems to have been removed from the legs.

Ladies drawers or bloomers from Sears, Spring 1917.

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“Mother was right: always wear nice underwear in case somebody sees it….” Public domain image of Theda Bara as Cleopatra, 1917.

Since posting about the confusing names for 1920’s undies, I received wonderful comments, including this from The Vintage Traveler:

“Here’s my take, and I could be wrong. I’ve been looking at catalogs from 1918 through 1925, and I’ve found all the terms you’ve mentioned. I have not found anything referred to as a “teddy”. We used that term in the 1980s when the camisole/panty combination had a comeback. I don’t know if it was used in the 1920s.

“From what I can tell using my own sources, an envelope combination is one that has the buttoning crotch flap, sort of in the way an actual envelope has a flap to close it. So the pictured green suit is an envelope combination.

“Step-in combinations are different in that they have to be literally stepped in to. The partition between the legs is sewn rather than buttoned and so the garment cannot be pulled over the head and onto the body. It’s easy to see why the combination was starting to be divided in two pieces. How on earth would one be able to use the toilet without completely undressing?

“For the life of me, I can’t see why Butterick 6194 was called knickers. I’ve read all kinds of explanations about why Americans used bloomers/panties/stepins while the British called the same garment knickers. From what I can see, “knickers” was rarely used in the US to denote an undergarment. But from your example we can see that it was, on occasion, used in that way.

“As for outerwear, bloomers are full, and they close at the bottom with elastic. Knickers are much less full, and close at the knees with a band that buttons.”

And this from Dee, who has a 1931 Home Economics textbook:

“I have a high school home economics book, Fabric and Dress, copyright 1931, which includes a table of materials suitable for underwear. It lists slips, teddies, step-ins, bloomers, shorts, brassieres, shirts, union suits, pajamas and gowns. Shirts and union suits are listed as uses for stockinette, and it is indicated just prior to the table that pajamas and gowns are nightwear. There are also references to previous styles of undergarments: Petticoats, camisoles, and this interesting one “Pettibockers (full bloomers drawn in below the knee) were popular when skirts were long. The style of short skirts changed this undergarment, by shortening it and taking out some of the fullness.”

“I also found it interesting that in the chapter which goes over a bit of fashion history, with an emphasis on the “follies of fashion”, (i.e., 18th century headdress, Elizabethan ruffs, 1860 hoopskirts) there is a reference to “Another more recent fashion, which will probably seem as absurd as many of these when it becomes long out-of-date, is the very short skirt of 1928 and 1929, which was about three inches above the knee.”

Sometimes I love the internet!

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Underthings, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

Beautiful Blouses Circa 1917

Women’s blouses (called “Waists”) from the Sears catalog, Fall 1917, p. 122.

Because so many white vintage blouses from this era have survived, I needed this reminder that many brightly colored blouses were also worn in the nineteen “teens.” Perhaps the lacy white “lingerie blouses” have survived in greater numbers because most of the blouses pictured above were made of silk, which is more likely to shatter with age.

Blouse patterns from Butterick’s Delineator magazine, made up in colorful fabrics; June 1917.

These delicate white cotton voile or batiste blouses from the World War I era have survived nicely.

A sheer vintage blouse, circa 1918. Those deep tucks over the sleeve heads would flatter a woman with narrow shoulders.

The gathered back with twill tape ties is characteristic of WW I era blouses. All those pin tucks make a beautiful back.

A vintage V-necked blouse on embroidered Swiss cotton. The exposed throat came in around 1912.

Sheer cotton vintage “Armistice” blouse circa 1918. Inserted filet lace.

Detail of inserted filet lace and fagoting on vintage “Armistice” blouse.

Construction details like these would cost a fortune today — but they were mass-produced one hundred years ago.

Sheer cotton vintage blouse, circa 1918.

Detail of delicate work on a vintage cotton blouse, circa 1918.

Those last two blouses, which have a center front insert, are the style are often called “Armistice” blouses after a Folkwear pattern that was very popular.

Sears sold many versions of this style.

“Armistice” style blouse in white cotton voile from Sears catalog, Spring 1919. Valenciennes lace was so popular it’s often described as “Val lace.” [Or was that a way to avoid false advertising ?]

More white voile blouses (“waists”) from the Sears catalog, Spring 1919.

It seems extraordinary to me that such luxurious, embroidered items cost less than two dollars. (For perspective, manufacturing jobs paid about $0.53 per hour in 1918. ) Some blouses were even less expensive:

This pin tucked voile lingerie “waist” from the Knickerbocker catalog ad cost only 98 cents in 1917. Clusters of pin tucks, insertion lace, embroidery, many buttons and buttonholes…. You wouldn’t think a blouse like this could be manufactured and sold so cheaply. Delineator, Feb. 1917.

From an ad for Fern Waists, Delineator, May 1917. $1 or $2. “You’ll find the Fern at the Fine Stores.”

Fern waists came in two price categories, “Fern,” for $1 and “Fernmore” for $2.

“Oh, it’s a Fern!” Text of an ad for Fern brand waists, Delineator, May 1917. “Produced by the largest waist-makers of the world…. S. & L. Krohnberg” of New York.

These “Handmade Waists for Less Than $1” could be made (with your own hands) from Ladies’ Home Journal patterns. July 1917. Note the colored collars and trim on the three at right.

But why make your own blouses, when these could be bought so cheaply?

From an ad for Bellas Hess ready-to-wear blouses, Delineator, Jan. 1917. “Good quality washable voile.”

From an ad for Bellas Hess ready-to-wear blouses, Delineator, Jan. 1917. “Sheer, white, washable voile” with inserted lace.

From an ad for Bellas Hess ready-to-wear blouses, Delineator, Jan. 1917. In washable white voile with “Swiss embroidery” and “Val. lace.”

Women could also buy lacy blouses for about $1 from the Sears catalog.

Inexpensive blouses from Sears Roebuck & Co. Spring catalog, 1918; priced at 89 to 98 cents each. Those matronly flounces (bottom right) seem to have been popular.

Inexpensive blouses from Sears, Fall 1917. Although illustrated in black and white, these less-than-a-dollar blouses were colorful. Fall 1917.

The one at the bottom center, No. 27K2230, was available in three colors:

Sears blouse (waist)  No. 27K2230, from Fall 1917, was white with blue, rose, or heliotrope [violet] trim.

Compared to the dollar blouses from Bella Hess and Knickerbocker, Sears offered some “waists” at several times the price.

Colorful blouses from Sears, Spring 1918, p. 108. Priced from $2.98 (vertical stripe, center) to $6.98 (the gold/tan colored ones with embroidery.)

Blouses from Sears catalog, Spring 1918, p. 107; from $3.98 (top left) to $5.98 (black lace.)

The Sears catalogs for 1919 showed beautiful silk blouses — some costing nearly $9.00.

Silk blouses sold through the Sears catalog for Spring 1919. The brown-and-black one near the center cost $8.95.

Luxurious blouses from Sears, Spring 1919 catalog, p. 34.

features lovely embroidery. Sears, 1919.

This silk blouse, like others in the higher price range, features lovely embroidery on sheer fabric.

Colored blouses from Sears, Spring 1919, p. 108.

If you couldn’t afford the pink one with horizontal tucks, you could make your own from patterns offered by Ladies’ Home Journal or by Butterick..

Ladies’ Home Journal make-over blouse patterns. July 1918, p. 81. This magazine often suggested patterns that could be made using fabrics from  out-of style dresses. The skirt of that old striped dress might be turned into up-to-date blouse #9957.

Butterick blouse patterns 8768 and 8879, Delineator, January 1917.

I have many other World War I era blouse images to share, but I think that’s enough for today.

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2018!

 

 

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Shirts and Blouses, Sportswear, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Vintage patterns, World War I

Bare Shoulders, December 1933

Butterick 5437, December 1933. Delineator.

Back in the nineteen nineties Donna Karan realized that, as women age, some become reluctant to bare their necks, or their upper arms, or their chests. Yet, for women, formal evening dress usually requires some bare skin. Karan cleverly exposed the shoulders! Shoulders rarely get wrinkled or flabby, and their skin never sags.

Click here for the “cold shoulders” dress as worn by then First Lady Hillary Clinton in 1993. Versions were also worn by Barbra Streisand and Liza Minelli.

Those Karan bare shoulders are back now: click here.  In 2017 they have worked their way into Bloomingdales, Macy’s, and even children’s clothing. But Donna Karan wasn’t the first to show bare shoulders, by sixty — or ninety — years.

Butterick 5415, a “cold shoulders” nightgown from December 1933. Delineator, p. 60. [“Cold shoulders” is not the 1930’s description.]

Film designer Howard Greer created a bare-shouldered dress for Katherine Hepburn in Christopher Strong, 1933.

Katharine Hepburn’s bare-shouldered dress, designed by Howard Greer for the film Christopher Strong, was available as a Butterick “starred” pattern in May, 1933. Delineator.

Butterick 5156 was a faithful copy of this 1933 movie costume.

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/5156-5154-front-and-back-views-may-1933.jpg?w=500

In the 1930’s, patterns that had bare shoulders — or slit sleeves that revealed bare upper arms — were available. Butterick 5437 and Butterick 4944.

Right, Butterick evening dress pattern 5530. On the left, Butterick 5518. From 1934; Delineator.

From 1935, this gown for a young woman echoes the evening gowns of an earlier era.

Butterick 6061 from February 1935.  The text says,”Borrowed from another century, the robe de style is today’s evening news.”

However, the bodice evokes this Edwardian evening style:

Evening gown from the House of Worth, 1906-1908. Metropolitan Museum Collection.

The fitted hips of  the 1935 version bears no resemblance to the “robe de style” popularized by Jeanne Lanvin in the 1920’s. [Fashion writing…. as imprecise in 1935 as it is today.]

https://witness2fashion.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/met-lanvin-1926-robe-de-style-62-166-2_front_cp3.jpg?w=357&h=500

Robe de Style, Jeanne Lanvin, 1926. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum. It’s hard to see any resemblance between this gown and Butterick 6061.

The bare shoulders of Butterick 6061 can be seen in 2017: click here.

More about this 1933 nightie:

Butterick 5415, a “cold shoulders” nightgown from December 1933. Delineator, p. 60.

The same article, about lingerie, showed a rather extreme velvet negligee:

Butterick negligee pattern 5413, December 1933. Delineator. [The play, which opened in 1932, as described in The Harvard Crimson as “one long bedroom scene.”]

It’s more fun than getting pajamas for Christmas.

Although I wouldn’t say no to these:

Lounging pajamas from 1933. Butterick 5410. [And, yes, in the 1960’s my college dorm still turned off the heat late at night.]

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, evening and afternoon clothes, Nightclothes and Robes, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns from the movies

Skirts and Blouses, July 1917

Delineator, July 1917, top of page 51. Butterick patterns.

I’ve been collecting images of women’s blouses from 1917; this particular page shows such a variety of skirts, blouses and hats that it deserves a closer look.

Butterick Blouse-Waist 9203, Delineator, July 1917.

This blouse was also featured in a color illustration in June:

Left, Butterick Blouse-Waist 9203, Delineator, June 1917.

And in a different version in August:

Butterick 9203, as illustrated in August 1917.

The same blouse, trimmed with filet crochet lace. July 1917. in 1917 a blouse could be called a “waist,” a “blouse,” a “blouse-waist,” or a “shirt-waist.”

Butterick 9203 was shown with a relatively simple stitched-down pleat skirt (No. 9276) , but the skirt was enhanced with a checked cotton belt and matching checked border:

Butterick skirt 9276 and bag 10625. July 1917.

Blouse 9203 could be made with a high-necked insert; the blouse has a sailor collar in back. The posture of 1917 is very high-waisted in back — caused by the shape of the corset.

Four “blouse-waists” and one “shirt-waist,” Butterick 9153. July 1917.

I’ve spent hours trying to figure out the difference between a blouse, a blouse-waist, and a shirtwaist. I haven’t found any consistency yet. Sometimes a “blouse” is pulled on over the head, and sometimes a “shirt-waist” has a button front, but — not always. More about that on another day.

Butterick blouse-waist 9280. Delineator, July 1917. The blouse is trimmed with smocking. That interesting belt/pocket is part of the skirt pattern.

Butterick skirt 9281, July 1917.

This view shows blouse 9280 in a single breasted version, with an optional high neck and the popular sailor collar in back. Skirt 9281.

Shirt-waist 9513 and blouse-waist 9116. Butterick’s Delineator magazine, July 1917. No. 9116 has “the new collarless neck.” The hat at right looks very much like a flower pot.

Blouse-waist 9116 with skirt 9290. Women who were not comfortable wearing the relatively new bare necklines could make the blouse with a high collar instead.

Both skirts have interesting details. The medieval-influenced belt at right isn’t included.

Butterick skirt patterns 9266, left; and 9290, right. This was the era of the “barrel” skirt; wide hips were in style.

Shirt-waist 9513 and blouse-waist 9116. Butterick’s Delineator magazine, July 1917.

Another sailor collar.

Not related to these patterns — except for its sailor collar — is this vintage embroidered lace waist.

This vintage “waist,” which literally ends at the waist, reflects the custom of selling dress patterns as separate waist and skirt patterns. This gave the buyer more style options.

Butterick blouse-waist 9289 and a skirt (9286) with a [“paper-bag”] waist that tried to come back into style quite recently. July 1917.

Butterick skirt 9286,from 1917. 100 years later, this paper bag waist was back.

Another high-necked blouse option, sailor collar, and a back view of the skirt with gathers above its waist.

And the “most unusual hat” award goes to….

Summer hat, 1917. She also has “bee-stung” lips, usually associated with the 1920s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Makeup & Lipstick, Shirts and Blouses, Vintage patterns, World War I

High Neck or Open Necked Options for Women, 1917

Butterick waists [i.e., blouses] from February 1917, Delineator, p. 51

After 1912, fashion permitted respectable women to expose their necks in the daytime, but not every woman felt comfortable with the change.

Butterick waists [blouses) from August 1917 occasionally included a high-necked one. Delineator, p. 47.

A vintage lingerie blouse (or “waist”), probably late 1890’s. That high collar wouldn’t give much relief from the heat in spite of the blouse’s sheer fabric.

These waist (blouse) patterns from Ladies’ Home Journal, July 1917, all have open necks. In July, a blouse like this must have been wonderfully cool compared to the fashions of the 1890’s.

By 1917, when most blouses had open collars, V-necks, or other necklines that bared the throat and part of the sternum, Butterick patterns often still included an optional high-necked version. That’s my excuse for showing these seven outfits from 1917 in all their colorful glory.

These look like dresses, but they are waist and skirt combinations. Butterick patterns from February 1917. Delineator.

The two at left use chiffon and other sheer fabrics; 8928 has a low draped neckline filled with skin-toned lace.

Butterick waist patterns 8927 and 8919. From 1917. In January, Butterick evening waist 8901 was very similar to 8927, but was shown without a blouse under it.

Butterick waist 8919 with skirt 8928. Delineator, Feb. 1917. The alternate view shows a high-necked variation without the cowl neckline of the color illustration.

Although I’m focusing on blouses, skirt 8928 was also illustrated (twice) with an evening bodice:

Skirt 8928 with “evening bodice” 8956. Delineator, editorial illustration, Feb. 1917.

Butterick evening coat 8727 shown with a “gown” that is really a blouse (No. 8956) and separate skirt (No. 8928 again.) Delineator, Feb. 1917. [That waist looks shockingly bare to me!]

Butterick waist patterns 8927, 8919, and 8923. February 1917. The designs at left and right have contrast collars and a wrapped “surplice” bodice.

Butterick waist 8927 with skirt 8949. February 1917, Delineator. This one does not offer a high necked version. It is a “jumper model” in the American sense — a sleeveless garment worn over a blouse.

Butterick waist 8923 with skirt 8936. Delineator, February 1917. This blouse waist has a high-necked variation, shown with a dark collar.

A “French lining” fit the body closely and supported draped effects. In this period, as in the 19th century, the closure of the lining did not always line up with the closures on the outer garment, which could be very complex.

These are dresses, not waist and skirt combinations. Delineator, Feb. 1917 page 52. No. 8942 looks like a coat, but it’s a dress.

A closer look at the necklines and the hats. 1917.

Butterick dress pattern 8929, from 1917. It has a tabard (panel) hanging front and back, and unusual “organ-pipe” pleats at the sides of the skirt. “High or open neck could be used.”

Butterick dress pattern 8942, from 1917. The vest front is “equally well adapted to a high or the open throat.” There are at least three sleeve and cuff variations.

Butterick dress 8933, from February 1917, has a surplice (wrapped) bodice. The illustrations show several sleeve variations and a high buttoned neck, worn without the cape collar. [That blue taffeta is beautifully rendered by the illustrator.]

Butterick dress 8947, with skirt and bodice variations, including a high-necked version. 1917. The cross-over belt is very characteristic of 1917. You can see how it ties in the back. “The lower part of the redingote has two different outlines, and it is joined to the long body.”

The hats of 1917 were pretty extreme. [And some were pretty, while some were extreme.]

 

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Hairstyles, Shirts and Blouses, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, World War I

Advertising Mary Brooks Picken’s Woman’s Institute: Out Stepped Ann!

“Out Stepped Ann!” This full page ad in Delineator magazine looks like a story. It’s really an advertisement for the Woman’s Institute correspondence course in dressmaking. Delineator, May 1924, page 5.

While randomly reading through vintage magazines, I have collected quite a photo gallery of ads for Mary Brooks Picken’s Woman’s Institute, which was a very successful correspondence course in dressmaking from 1916 through the 1930’s. (It has no relationship to the Women’s Institute, an organization for women that’s been doing important work for a long time.)

As sometimes happens with great stuff you find on the internet, I can no longer locate the first helpful site I found about the Woman’s Institute and its founder, Mary Brooks Picken. But I owe it thanks for mentioning the brilliant ad campaign which contributed to the Institute’s success — which is why I photographed this full page ad when I saw it.

(The instruction books and booklets written by Picken were excellent; I used one many years ago, in graduate school. I learned a lot about making twenties’ dresses from her! In other words, the Woman’s Institute delivered what it promised. A page from her twenties’ book about designing by draping fashions could be a “light bulb” moment for you, too. ) But that “lost” site which mentioned the genius of Picken’s second husband, G. Lynn Sumner, “president of the advertising firm of G. Lynn Sumner Co. of New York” which was probably responsible for the Woman’s Institute ads, was the reason I saved this wonderful example of his story-telling technique. It was a full page ad — an expensive venture — that captures the psychological appeal of the Woman’s Institute courses.

Here is Ann at the climax of the story, stepping out from behind a curtain in the new dress she made herself. Woman’s Institute ad, Delineator, May 1924, p. 5.

Ann’s tale is easy to relate to; she’s a popular girl, but she can’t afford to dress as well as her friends. “If I could only look in the mirror just once and be satisfied with what I see!” [Is there a  woman who can’t relate to that?]

Ann is so embarrassed by her shoddy old “good dress” that she deliberately spills a bottle of perfume on it rather than go to the party.

Determined to come up with something to wear to her best friend’s upcoming birthday party,  Ann ransacks her closet for old dresses that might be remade.

She consults the local dressmaker about remaking a dress, but she’s told that every dressmaker in town is already too busy with other orders. Ann goes window shopping, but can’t afford any of the dresses she sees, so she doesn’t even try them on.

At home, Ann leafs through a fashion magazine.

Ann tells her friends that she’s suffering from “nerves” and under doctors’ orders to stay at home and rest for a month. Her other friends don’t visit her, but Elizabeth tells them that Ann seems happy, especially since she is now getting lots of letters and packages in the mail. And Ann promises not to miss Elizabeth’s birthday celebration.

Ann arrives, wearing a coat and with a scarf covering her hair. She dodges into the cloak room, hidden by the curtains. Then …

Here is Ann, stepping out from behind a curtain in the new dress she made herself. Woman’s Institute ad, Delineator, May 1924, p.5.

“Making Beautiful Clothes” booklet, from an ad for Woman’s Institute, Delineator, Feb. 1924, p. 79.

Doesn’t that make you want to send in your coupon?

Coupon for information and free booklet from Woman’s Institute. Feb., 1924.

Good News: Some of Mary Brooks Picken’s books on 1920’s dressmaking are available as paperback reprints.

The famous “one hour dress” book (1924 edition) by Mary Picken is available as a reprint. Since the styles of 1924 are still long, “tubular twenties,” you might prefer the 1925 edition, which is also available.

You can also download and print your own copy of her 1925 book The Mary Brooks Picken Method of Modern Dressmaking thanks to ///Columbia/// CORRECTION: Cornell University: click here. This is an illustrated sewing basics book which gives an indication of how thorough Picken was.  It is not a “one-hour dress” book. Picken also wrote the Singer Sewing Book in the 1950’s.

The Woman’s Institute had already been around for several years in the Twenties; its ads always emphasized both personal and professional dress making and millinery opportunities for women.

Many of the points made in “Out Stepped Ann!” were repeated in smaller monthly advertisements. Even early ads emphasized financial savings, a chance to learn a skill that could produce income, and a sense of accomplishment. The women in these ads were proud that they had made their own clothes.

“Yes, I Made It All Myself!” students of the Woman’s Institute proudly proclaimed in the ads. Delineator, July 1917.

These ads battled the stigma of wearing clothes that looked “home-made;” and, if a woman followed the instructions carefully, her clothes would in fact look well-made.

“She’s the Best Dressed Woman in Town” because she learned to make clothes and hats by taking a home study course from Woman’s Institute. Other women envy her. Ad from Ladies’ Home Journal, September 1917.

“I’m Making My Own Dresses This Summer,” and clothes for the children, too, brags this satisfied customer. Detail, Woman’s Institute ad from Ladies’ Home Journal, July 1917.

“I Make My Own Hats” says another proud Woman’s Institute student in this ad from Ladies’ Home Journal, November 1917. “I have four becoming, stylish hats where I used to have only one…. You can earn money making hats for your friends in spare time or open a millinery shop of your own. Pictures make everything clear….”

“It’s the prettiest dress I ever had…. And Just Think, Mother, How Much We Saved.” Ad for Woman’s Institute, Delineator, March 1927. [That hat really was chic in 1917.] In addition to saving half the cost of purchased clothing, “You can have clothes that are more becoming and better fitting, because they will be made of the materials and in the styles that you select, and to your own measurements.”

Making your own clothing and turning last year’s dresses into new styles was patriotic, too, during World War I. Click here.

“Now I Save Half on All My Clothes.” From an Ad for Woman’s Institute, Ladies’ Home Journal, December 1917. “You know the patriotic slogan among women this year is ‘Make Your Own Clothes!’

Making “New Clothes From Old” was a patriotic duty during World War I. “This year women are urged to economize, but economy need not mean fewer clothes.” Woman’s Institute ad, Ladies’ Home Journal, Nov. 1917.

“This Year I Had Six Dresses Instead of Two.” Woman’s Institute ad from Delineator, February 1917. “Besides, I’ve made three skirts and half a dozen blouses and practically everything that the children are wearing. And a year ago I couldn’t make a buttonhole.

Aside from the occasional full page ad, Woman’s Institute inserted small advertisements into most women’s magazines every month — sometimes two ads in one issue. What is remarkable to me is that there was a new, different ad every month.

Collecting Woman’s Institute advertisements from the 1920’s and 1930’s will give you a mini-history of the fashions for each year.  I’m saving those for another post — but here’s a preview: (one from 1927, one from 1933)

Detail, Woman’s Institute ad, Delineator, January 1927.

Detail, Woman’s Institute ad, Delineator, March 1933.

Fashions changed a lot in those six years.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Woman's Institute, World War I